Grant Gerlock

Harvest Public Media's reporter at NET News, where he started as Morning Edition host in 2008. He joined Harvest Public Media in July 2012. Grant has visited coal plants, dairy farms, horse tracks and hospitals to cover a variety of stories. Before going to Nebraska, Grant studied mass communication as a grad student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and completed his undergrad at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa. He grew up on a farm in southwestern Iowa where he listened to public radio in the tractor, but has taken up city life in Lincoln, Neb.

Amy Mayer / IPR file

The latest version of Iowa’s ag gag law is headed to court, just like its predecessor. The ACLU of Iowa and other groups are suing the state, arguing that the law violates the free speech of journalists and animal rights advocates by making it a crime to go undercover on the farm.

Under the new law, an individual who lies in order to gain access to a farm or agricultural facility with the intention of physically or economically harming the business can be charged with trespassing.

A home near Pacific Junction, Iowa, is surrounded by water on April 12, 2018.
Katie Peikes / IPR file

FEMA wants to hear from Iowans who were forced to move out of flooded homes to find out if they plan to apply for federal aid. The agency offers financial assistance to renters and grants to homeowners to make their properties safe to live in again. Low interest loans are also available from the Small Business Association.

Grant Gerlock/IPR

Many Democratic presidential candidates have offered their reaction to Thursday’s release with redactions of the Mueller report investigating Russian involvement in the 2016 election. 

Campaigning in Des Moines, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said she feels the special counsel should testify before Congress.

“The most important thing is that Bob Mueller come before Congress so that we can get to the bottom of why there’s this difference between his interpretation of the law and the Attorney General of the United States,” Klobuchar said.

Grant Gerlock / IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg said at a Des Moines rally Tuesday night that his party needs to spend more time talking about issues where Republicans have traditionally controlled the message.

President Trump speaks as he visits a new section of the border wall with Mexico in Calexico, California, Friday April 5, 2019.
Jacquelyn Martin / AP

On a recent visit to the southern border in California, President Trump recently said there is no room in the U.S. for more migrants. But many employers in Iowa say that statement doesn’t fit their reality. Instead, they are hoping immigration can provide workers to rebuild a shrinking labor force.

In Iowa, more people are retiring than joining the job market. The state is tied with New Hampshire, Vermont and North Dakota for the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 2.4 percent. For some businesses, finding enough workers is their greatest challenge.

Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines diocese.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

The Catholic Diocese of Des Moines is the latest to identify priests accused of sexual abuse as the church attempts to fully account for reports of abuse by clergy. Bishop Richard Pates Thursday named nine priests implicated in 44 reports of abuse substantiated by the diocese.

The list includes two priests who were not previously publicized: Paul Connelly and Dennis Mangan.

Mike Gronstal testifies against new rules for employee misconduct at a subcommittee hearing.
John Pemble / IPR

Updated Friday, April 5, 2019:

This bill was advanced by the House Commerce Committe, which means it survived the funnel deadline and could come up for debate on the House floor.

Original post from Tuesday, April 2, 2019:

An Iowa Senate bill that specifies cases where workers should be denied unemployment benefits is now advancing in the House, although opponents question whether the changes are necessary.

Currently the Iowa Department of Workforce Development (IWD) decides whether to disqualify a worker from unemployment based on rules it has developed. The bill (SF 561) would codify those rules but also spells out additional forms of misconduct that would disqualify someone from receiving benefits including drinking on the job, stealing or dishonesty.

Iowa Capitol
John Pemble / IPR file

A House subcommittee has advanced a bill (SF 523) that would increase the criminal penalty for intentionally or accidentally causing the death of an “unborn person.” It was the first opportunity for supporters and opponents of the proposal to weigh in on controversial language defining an unborn person as starting at conception.

Under the measure, some people convicted of killing an unborn person could receive a life sentence. Supporters said it is an appropriate punishment.  

The U.S. Attorney's office worked with the FBI and police departments in central Iowa to investigate the C-Block gang.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

The alleged leaders of a Des Moines area street gang are in custody after a months-long investigation by the FBI and local police agencies. Investigators say members of the gang known as C-Block repeatedly bought cocaine from a broker in Chicago to distribute in Iowa.

Thirteen of the 15 people facing charges have been arrested so far. That includes the accused leaders of the group: Daeron Merrett, Marshaun Merrett and Barry Adair, Jr.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member Brenda Brink of Huxley speaks in front of the Capitol at Wednesday's lawsuit announcement.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

State agencies should be required to take greater steps to improve water quality in the Raccoon River according to a new lawsuit filed Wednesday by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and Food and Water Watch.

The river provides drinking water for much of the Des Moines area, but it often carries excessive levels of nutrients from the farm fields that drain into it.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

Farm income has taken a long, hard fall, dropping 50 percent since hitting a high point in 2013. Add to that near-record levels of farm debt, and you have a recipe for financial stress.

But while economists say they can see storm clouds building, it’s not a full-blown crisis. That’s because relatively few farms have been pushed past the breaking point into Chapter 12 bankruptcy — or, worse, into losing the farm entirely.

The U.S. trade war with China has created a financial burden for farmers and companies that import Chinese goods. Consumers, on the other hand, have mostly been spared from the conflict.

That could all change if this month’s negotiations between the U.S. and China don’t go well.

Lawmakers unveiled the much-anticipated farm bill compromise Monday night, ending the months-long impasse over whether a critical piece of legislation that provides subsidies to farmers and helps needy Americans buy groceries could pass before the lame-duck session concludes at the end of the year.

Updated at 3 p.m. Dec. 20 with Trump signing legislation — The long-awaited final version of the farm bill was unveiled Monday night, and it hews somewhat closely to the previous piece of massive legislation — aside from legalizing hemp on a national level. 

A handful of companies — think Tyson and Perdue — all but control poultry production in the U.S. They’ll soon be joined by a retailer known more for selling rotisserie chickens: Costco, which is building a farm-to-table system based in Nebraska to supply itself.

One year ago, Hurricane Maria swept over Puerto Rico, bringing 150 mph winds. Nearly 3,000 people died, homes and buildings were ruined and farms were destroyed all over the U.S. territory.

According to Luis Pinto, a farmer near Yabucoa, southeast of the capital San Juan, the sound of the wind screaming through the trees “felt like the hurricane was crying.” Plantain trees were flattened on Pinto’s farm. In all, the storms caused $300,000 in damage to his crops, cattle, fences and roads.

Prices for crops like corn and soybeans have declined as the U.S. has sparred with top trading partners, but exports of those crops have not plummeted the way many observers had feared.

With a litany of alleged ethics controversies swirling at home, embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt took the show on the road this week, meeting with farmers in a handful of Midwestern states to talk about his policy agenda.

While Thursday evening's meeting in Lincoln, Neb., was polite, the reception in other states has not been as welcoming, especially when it comes to conversations about his ethanol policies.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s message to Midwestern farmers this week is a mixed bag, telling them that the agency will be changing an Obama-era rule regarding water regulations but is pausing a plan to expand summer sales of ethanol.

There’s a Republican-authored proposal in the next farm bill that would require millions more people to work or volunteer in order to receive federal food assistance.

courtesy / U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall's Office

Held up over disagreements over federal food stamps, the first draft of the 2018 farm bill arrived Thursday, bearing 35 changes to that program, including starting a national database of participants.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30; in the past, Congress has had to extend their work beyond deadlines. The bill released Thursday came from the House Agriculture Committee, which is headed by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

In winter, farmers across the U.S. visit their banks to learn whether they have credit for the next growing season, relying on that borrowed money to buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

But prices for corn, soybeans and wheat are low enough that some producers have had a hard time turning a profit, and financial analysts expect some farmers will hear bad news: Their credit has run out.

The Trump administration wants to show rural communities, which voted for him by wide margins in the 2016 election, they are still on the president’s mind. It suggested a list of broad ideas in January to spark growth and carved out rural interests in an infrastructure plan.

When President Donald Trump follows through on his plan to tax imported steel and aluminum, American farmers will get less money for some crops and pay more for machinery.

Farm groups say their members worry the countries targeted by the tariffs (the list of which has not been finalized by the Trump administration) will tax farm products. The European Union already has threatened imports of corn, rice, cranberries, peanut butter, kidney beans, orange juice and even bourbon, which is usually made from corn.

There is a slight silver lining for consumers, however, because prices of those products may drop in the U.S.

The two federal agencies tasked with enforcing the nation’s food safety laws agreed this week to collaborate better, update biotechnology regulations and implement new safety inspections on produce farms.

The biggest change from the agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, however, could come from a review of how food processing facilities currently are regulated by both departments. Experts say that could lead to less paperwork for food manufacturers and more streamlined reports of recalls and other food safety issues.

In places where the unemployment rate is well below the national average — states like Nebraska, Colorado and Iowa — one would think it’d be easier for communities to recruit new residents to fill open jobs.

But the housing market works against rural towns and cities where jobs often stay open because there are too few affordable homes and apartments to buy or rent, or the ones that are affordable need lots of TLC. It’s a situation that threatens to turn low unemployment from an advantage into a liability.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

In winter, farmers across the U.S. visit their banks to learn whether they have credit for the next growing season, relying on that borrowed money to buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

But prices for corn, soybeans and wheat are low enough that some producers have had a hard time turning a profit, and financial analysts expect some farmers will hear bad news: Their credit has run out.

That’s what happened to the Delaneys, a family now trying to save their farm near Fremont, in eastern Nebraska.

Danette Ray is standing inside a re-created train depot, wearing cowboy boots, leather chaps and two six-shooters in holsters at her waist. Before she draws her pistols to fire at a row of targets, Ray calls out: “You get back inside, I’ll cover for ya!” — a line spoken by Jimmy Stewart in the 1957 western Night Passage.

Ray, who goes by the nickname Marie Laveau, competes in cowboy action shooting, a brand of target shooting with historically accurate guns and costumes. There’s yet another dose of theater: In each round, the shooters play out a movie scene.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture faces a lawsuit that argues the federal agency must bring back a proposed rule that defined abusive practices by meatpacking companies.

Farmers from Alabama and Nebraska and the Organization for Competitive Markets, a nonprofit that works on competition issues in agriculture, filed the suit Thursday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Between the time a cut of steak or pound of hamburger goes from cattle farm to grocery shelf, it more than likely passes through one of three companies: Tyson Foods, Cargill or JBS.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the top four beef processors hold 85 percent of the market share, controlling the beef market to the point that some farmers believe the companies’ clout unfairly influences livestock prices.

Last month, the USDA withdrew a rule proposed in the final weeks of the Obama administration that would have made it easier for cattle producers to raise objections if they thought meatpackers weren’t giving them a fair price.

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